Outline: San Fransisco – Carmel by the sea – Solvang – Yosemite NP – San Fransisco (~850 miles)
Keyword: Road trip; Seaside sightseeing; Hiking; Christmas
– 12/23 San Fransisco –
This is my second time visiting San Fransisco. It came back to 2011 as my first time to participate in a summer social practice to get knowledge of American culture and social functional systems. The Golden Gate Bridge is the only landmark I visited this time. At the Welcome Center, I got my NP passport stamped and was surprised by some facts I didn’t know before.
I originally thought the color of the bridge is red, but it was officially called international orange. The US Navy and Air Force initially wanted it to be painted in strips to enhance visibility. But fortunately, the color was finally selected by an architect with consideration of both being aesthetically compatible with surroundings and being visually captured in fog.
Why is it called Golden Gate Bridge? Just like he named the ancient harbor of Byzantium, U.S. Army Captain John C. Fremont wrote “I gave it the name Chrysopylae, or Golden Gate, for the same reason that the harbor of Byzantium was called Chrysoceras or Golden Horn.” But he would never know hundreds of ships sailing through this narrow strait during the greatest gold rush in history. Indeed, there is no relationship between the gold rush and the bridge.
The bridge is one of the most common suicide site. Jumpers hit at the water at ~80 mph and most of them died from trauma. A 2006 Documentary directed by Eric Steel named The Bridge , recorded 23 of the 24 suicides in 2014 and featured interviews with families and some identified people. I was in a gloomy and depressed mood when I watched this documentary, and I couldn’t imagine how painful they were. I still remembered the man witnessed a suicide when he was kitting said later in the interview: “Kitting this to me is a real celebration of life. It’s exhilarating, it’s trilling, it’s just awesome. So it’s a real juxtaposition of celebration of life and ending of life.”
– 12/24-12/26 US 1 Highway –
We set off from San Fransisco to south and stopped at Carmel and Solvang for overnight. In consideration of time, we only spent 2 days on US 1 highway and then directed to Yosemite NP. I’ll list some travel tips/resources and interesting facts in the following.
Tips before setting off:
- Remember to check road conditions
- Remain the gas level of being able to drive at least 50 miles
17 miles drive
Admission to 17-Mile Drive is $10.25 per vehicle, cash only. The gate fee is reimbursed with a purchase of $35 or more at all Pebble Beach Resorts restaurants, excluding Pebble Beach Market. We planed a visit from North (Pacific Grove Gate) to South (Carmel Gate). The seaside route was highly recommended. We gave up the inner island route (can view golf course) since none of us are golf fans. (Map)
Carmel-by-the-sea is located on the Monterey Peninsula and within 3 miles after the tail of 17 miles drive. The city is famous for art and gorgeous scenes. The suggested way for visiting this city is: book a local inn, visit art galleries/involve in workshops, and just take leisures at beach (cover picture). I’m not sure if the artistic atmosphere is due to the relocation of many artists, poets, musicians, and writers after experiencing 1906 San Fransisco earthquake, but I can tell the city is full of imagination and energy.
The fun fact of this city is: the stores and houses doesn’t have street numbers. When the original artists moved here, they named their own house rather than number the addresses. The city has an USPS office to offer mail delivery services and residents could use it for free by providing the residency certificate each year. But something called geographical addresses exist to provide guidance for postman of delivering packages overnight. The format used for geographical addressing lists the street, cross street, and the number of houses from the intersection.
Oh, please notice that, the city do prohibit wearing high heels (>2 inches/5.1 cm) unless obtaining a permit. Nowadays this law looks pretty peculiar with the rapid development of modern world, but it was recorded to protect the city from lawsuits caused from tripping over irregular pavement by wearing high heels. Permits are available at City Hall.
- Upcoming events
- Inn (check the lists here and book on the cheaper web)
- Art galleries and experiences (have lists of galleries, workshops, and tours)
- Wine tasting
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
We did another hiking: Overlook Trail to McWay Falls (1 mile out&back).
Solvang was found in 1911 and is famous for Danish style restaurants and architectures. The booming of Danish emigrants between 1850 and 1930 who suffered from poor economic development of Denmark probably may explain the increasing Danes residency in this area.
The feature attracted me most is the traditional Danish architecture style: half-timbered construction. This unique half-timbering is a structure using load-bearing timbers to create spaces between them and then filled in with other materials. This style allows self-customized since the timber frame is often left visible on the exterior of the building. And it could be rapidly erected even within 2-3 days. Additionally, the seismic survivability is so prominent that some half-timbered building could last over decades. However, too much exterior timber could cause water absorption or wood burns. (Timber frame 101)
Photography Courtesy of Shutterstock
We visited Hans Christian Anderson Museum as well, which located at the upstairs of The Book Loft Building. On April 2nd each year, a birthday celebration of Anderson will hold here. The highlights of the museum include the collections of Anderson’s works and love life. (Anderson’s love stories)
- Official website (including things to do, galleries, dining, shopping, wine tasting, etc.)
– 12/27-12/28 Yosemite NP –
The way of visiting Yosemite National Park differs by seasons. Depending on the weather, Tioga Road and Glacier Point Road are usually closed around mid November. However, Yosemite Valley and Wawona are still opening. And please remember to check in advance if tire chains are required when visiting Yosemite in winter.
We booked a hotel in Oakhurst, which is a very small town located in the south west of Yosemite NP. I highly recommended to book a hotel in Yosemite Valley in advance at least one to two months, so it’ll save a lot of time on the road especially when you suffering from the tiredness of outdoor activities. But if you plan to visit Wawona and don’t care about the one and a half hour driving, living in Oakhurst is a good choice.
We only stayed two days in Yosemite, so most of our time were spent on the scenic spots on the way to Yosemite Valley. I created a google map to marked important spots and tracked the driving route. Check here: Way to Yosemite Valley.
I’ll only introduce Four Miles Trail here since it’s my favorite. This trail is ranked as moderate to strenuous, and begins from Swinging Bridge recreation area to Glacier Point. It lengthens 4.8 mile in total and is the only way to Glacier Point besides skiing in early winter. The final one mile is extremely dangerous in winter so it often closed from December to May. The trail is called Four Miles Trail because it was originally 4 mile when constructing in 1872, but later becoming 4.8 mile after reconstruction. We only did a hike towards to the Union Point (~7.7 mile out&back), but we had a very good view of most famous landmarks (El Captain, Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, etc.).
Mariposa Grove Museum on Wawova Rd might be an interesting place to check as well since lots of big sequoia trees are there. Unfortunately we were not able to visit as that area was in construction.
- Tire chains
- Historical seasonal opening and closing dates
- Hotel/Lodge in Yosemite Valley: Yosemite Valley Lodge, The Majestic Yosemite Hotel
- Skiboard area
– 12/29 San Fransisco –
On the last day, we went back to San Fransisco and back home at night. This trip was so memorable that not only because of the many new things I tried (ex. first time eating Escargot…), but most importantly are the piece of leisure from my busy work scedule and the real experience of the history and culture in each place I went. The secret I wouldn’t tell is, you’ll never imagine how much you will gain until being determined to move cross different places. And that’s the key point why I love traveling. I’m hoping what I wrote could save a bit of time for those who need it and help you make your own travel plans!